[HISTORY: Adopted by the Borough Council of the Borough of Homestead 9-10-2015 by Ord. No. 1241-2015. Amendments noted where applicable.]
It is the purpose and intent of the Borough to establish a process to address the deteriorated and blight of Borough neighborhoods caused by abandoned or foreclosed real property located within the Borough, and to identify, regulate, limit and reduce the number of vacant or abandoned properties located within the Borough. It is the Borough's further intent to establish a registration program as a mechanism to protect neighborhoods from becoming blighted due to the lack of adequate maintenance and security of foreclosed or abandoned properties.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ABANDONED PROPERTY
- Any real property in the Borough that has become both vacant and blighted.
- ACCESSIBLE PROPERTY/STRUCTURE
- A property or structure that is accessible through a compromised/breached gate, fence, wall, etc., or a structure that is unsecured and/or breached in such a way as to allow access to the interior space by unauthorized persons.
- APPLICABLE CODES
- To include, but not be limited to the Borough's Property Maintenance Code, Building Code, Zoning Code, Homestead Borough Code of Ordinances ("Homestead Borough Code"), and the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code.
- A. Properties that have broken or severely damaged windows, doors, walls, or roofs which create hazardous conditions and encourage trespassing; or
- B. Properties cited for public nuisance pursuant to the Homestead Borough Code; or
- C. Properties that endanger the public health, safety, or welfare because the properties or improvements thereon are dilapidated, deteriorated, or violate minimum health and safety standards or lack maintenance as required by one or more of the applicable codes.
- ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- Any building official, zoning officer, code enforcement officer, building inspector, fire inspector, law enforcement officer, or other person authorized by the Borough to enforce the applicable codes.
- FORECLOSED PROPERTY
- Any real property located in the Borough, whether vacant or occupied, that is in default on a mortgage, has had a lis pendens filed against it by the mortgagee, is subject to an application for a tax deed or pending tax assessors lien sale, or has been transferred to the mortgagee under a deed in lieu of foreclosure. The designation of a property as "foreclosed" shall remain in place until such time as the property is sold or transferred to a new owner, the foreclosure action has been dismissed, and any default on the mortgage has been cured.
- Any person, legal entity or other party having any ownership interest, whether legal or equitable, in real property. This term shall also apply to any person, legal entity or agent responsible for the construction, maintenance or operation of the property involved.
- PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY
- A local property manager, property maintenance company or similar entity responsible for the management and/or maintenance of real property.
- VACANT PROPERTY
- Any building or structure that is not legally occupied.
These sections shall be considered cumulative and not superseding or subject to any other law or provision for same, but rather be an additional remedy available to the Borough above and beyond any other applicable codes or laws.
Pursuant to the provisions of § 207-5, the Borough or designee shall establish a registry cataloging each foreclosed or abandoned property within the Borough. The registry will contain the information required by this chapter.
Upon default by the mortgagor of the mortgage on any real property located within the Borough, the mortgagee (lender) who holds such mortgage shall perform an inspection of the property to determine vacancy or occupancy. The mortgagee shall, within 10 days of the inspection, register the property with the Borough Manager, or the Borough Manager's designate, on forms or a website provided by the Borough, and indicate whether the property is vacant or occupied. A separate registration is required for each property, whether it is found to be vacant or occupied.
If the property is occupied but remains in mortgage default, it shall be inspected by the mortgagee or the mortgagee's designee monthly until:
The mortgagor or other party remedies the default; or
The property is found to be vacant or shows evidence of vacancy, at which time it is deemed abandoned, and the mortgagee shall, within 10 days of that inspection, update the property registration to a vacancy status on forms or website access provided by the Borough.
This section shall also apply to properties that have been the subject of a foreclosure sale where the title was transferred to the beneficiary of a mortgagee involved in the foreclosure and any properties transferred under a deed in lieu of foreclosure/sale.
This section shall also apply to properties that have been identified by a Borough Enforcement Officer as being abandoned, through the investigation of Code violations or blighted conditions on such properties.
Annual registration pursuant to this section shall be required from and provided by the owners or mortgagees of all abandoned property for which they are the owner or mortgagee and shall contain the name of the property owner, the mortgagee and the foreclosure process server or attorney (if applicable); the direct mailing address of the owner, the mortgagee (if applicable) and the server or attorney (if applicable); a direct contract name and telephone number for all parties; facsimile number and email address for all parties; the Allegheny County tax parcel identification number of the property; and the name and twenty-four-hour contact phone number of any property management company responsible for the security and maintenance of the property. If the property is vacant, the front door of the property shall be posted legibly and clearly with the name and twenty-four-hour contact telephone of the owner, mortgagee or designated local agent. The posting shall contain the following language:
A nonrefundable annual registration fee for abandoned property shall accompany the annual registration form. An annual registration fee shall be paid at the time of registration and shall be due on the date of registration and every year thereafter until such property becomes legally occupied. Unless changed by resolution of the Borough Council, the annual registration fees to be paid by the owner or mortgagee of an abandoned property shall be:
Per year for buildings or structures that have been abandoned for up to, but not more than, two years: $200.
For buildings or structures that have been vacant or abandoned for more than two years, but less than three years: $400.
For buildings or structures that have been vacant or abandoned for more than three years, but less than four years: $800.
For buildings or structures that have been vacant or abandoned for more than four years, but less than five years: $1,000.
The fee shall increase by $1,000 for each year the building or structure is vacant or abandoned after four years of vacancy or abandonment. For example, the fee for year five would be $2,000; the fee for year six would be $3,000; the fee for year seven would be $4,000, etc.
All registration fees must be paid directly from the mortgagee, server, trustee, or owner. Third-party registration fees will not be accepted without the prior consent of the Borough.
Properties subject to this section shall remain under the annual registration requirement, and the inspection, security and maintenance standards of this section as long as they remain abandoned. Once the property is no longer in foreclosure or is sold to a person or entity other than the mortgagee, the mortgagee must provide proof of sale or written notice of termination of the foreclosure proceeding to the Borough.
Any owner and/or mortgagee that has registered a property under this section must report any change of information contained in this registration within 10 days of the change.
Failure of the mortgagee and/or owner to properly register or to modify the registration from time to time to reflect a change of circumstances as required by this section is a violation of this section and shall be subject to enforcement.
Pursuant to any administrative or judicial finding and determination that any property is in violation of this section, the Borough may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with and place a lien on the property for the cost of the work performed to benefit the property and bring it into compliance.
Properties subject to this chapter shall be compliant with all applicable code(s) and issuance of a citation or notice of violation. Pursuant to a finding and determination by the Borough Code Enforcement Officer, District Magistrate or a court of competent jurisdiction, the Borough may take the necessary action to ensure compliance.
Properties subject to this chapter shall be kept free of trash, junk, or debris; building materials; unlicensed or junk vehicles; any accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers, printed material or notices, except those required by federal, state or local law; discarded personal items including, but not limited to, furniture, clothing, and appliances; and any other items that give the appearance that the property is abandoned.
The property shall be maintained free of graffiti or similar markings by removal or painting over with an exterior-grade paint that matches the color of the exterior structure.
Properties subject to this chapter shall be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be an accessible property/structure to unauthorized persons.
A "secure manner" shall include, but not be limited to, the closure and locking of windows, doors, gates and other openings of such size that may allow a person to access the interior of the property or structure. Broken windows, doors, gates and other openings of such size that may allow a person to access the interior of the property or structure must be repaired. Broken windows shall be secured by reglazing of the window, not by placement of wood or other material.
If the mortgage on a property is in default, and the property has become vacant or abandoned, a property manager shall be designated by the mortgagee to perform the work necessary to bring the property into compliance with the applicable codes, and the property manager must perform regular inspections to verify compliance with the requirements of this chapter and any other applicable laws.
All abandoned real property is hereby declared to be a public nuisance, the abatement of which, pursuant to the police power, is hereby declared to be necessary for the health, welfare and safety of the residents of the Borough.
Any owner, mortgagee or other person who shall be convicted by a District Justice of violating or failing to register and pay the registration fee required by this chapter, or to otherwise comply with the provisions of this chapter, or any section thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000, together with costs of prosecution, and in default of payment of such fine and costs, said violator shall be subject to imprisonment in the county jail for a term not to exceed 30 days. The continuation of such violation for each successive day shall constitute a separate offense, and the person or persons allowing or permitting the continuation of a violation may be punished as provided above for each separate offense.
Adherence to this chapter does not relieve any owner, mortgagee, or other person, legal entity or agent from any other obligations set forth in any applicable code(s) which may apply to the property. Upon sale or transfer of title to the property, the owner shall be responsible for all violations of the applicable code(s) and the owner shall be responsible for meeting with the Borough's Code Enforcement Officer within 45 days for a final inspection report.
If any section, sentence, clause or phrase of this chapter is held to be invalid or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, then said holding shall in no way affect or impair any of the remaining portions of this chapter. It is hereby declared to be the intention of the Borough that this chapter would have been adopted if such illegal, invalid or unconstitutional provisions had not been included herein.